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It's all a load of bollocks, quite frankly

Paul’s latest miserable motoring mishaps

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Fiat. Not broken. Yet

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve bored people with my yapping on about my old bangers so I thought I’d bore you all with the details of my latest incidents, break downs, purchases and general motoring mishaps. Oh joy*, you’re thinking.

Well, it starts from where I left off in the previous blog entry with the Fiat Punto Active. About a month into ownership, I heard a ticking noise from the engine then an almighty bang. All power was lost and the dashboard lit up like Blackpool. Managed to coast it to out of harm’s way and left it whilst cursing it. Walked home, had a pasty and a cup of tea and walked back with some tools. Turns out the number three spark plug had decided to part company with where it should be. Quite conveniently, I had a service kit in the boot as that was one of the jobs I was going to do that weekend. Took out the spark plugs, noticed that whoever serviced the car before had fitted two different makes of spark plug – two Bosch, two had some Chinese script on the side. It was one of the Chinese plugs that went popped out. So, new set of plugs, started up and ran like a dream. Quick engine service done there and then and all good.

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Bastard Hyundai Broken. Accent left at work. Again. Fiat not broken, to the rescue. Again

In the mean time, the Hyundai’s electrical system was proving to be a bit problematic in that it some of the time it didn’t want to start if it was cold. Or hot. Or warm. Or wet. Or dry. Or if the day of the week ended in Y. WD40 and a hammer generally worked quite well, as did replacing God knows how many sensors. On more than one occasion I had to leave the sodding thing at work because it wouldn’t start. Many swearings were sent in its direction, many Basil Fawltys were sent its way and how did it reward me a few weeks later? Spewing its oil out of the rotten oil filter and cam cover gasket.

Back to the Fiat and coming up to a year into ownership, November meant it was MoT time. Dreading handing over the keys as I generally do, I left it in their hands awaiting that bloody phone call. Not that I needed to worry, it went straight through no problems! Nothing else really happened in 2015 with the cars, but 2016 started off pretty shite. Not only were a whole host of famous people I like dying, things were happening to the cars too. The Fiat developed a stress crack in the windscreen, which was replaced.

The Hyundai, however, was a bit worse than that. It had developed a knock from the driveshaft and the running and starting problem returned. The nail in its coffin, mind, was the left hand front brake sticking fully on whilst driving along. On one occasion the damn thing pulled me into a hedge, and it wasn’t the sort of hedge I wanted to be in. It need a driveshaft, a front brake caliper and the electrics sorting and was going to cost far more than I wanted to spend on it to keep it running. To celebrate* this, I deliberately crashed it into some things then put it up for sale for scrap money, but no takers. In the end, I loaded it up one evening with an old washing machine and some old scrap metal ready to take it to the scrap yard the following morning. As it happened, I got a text message 7.15 the next morning with someone wanting to buy it. Before 8AM, I had exhanged money and keys, signed the log book away and had double what the scrap yard wanted. Bonus thing too, he took the scrap metal away with it.

So we were on the lookout for a new chariot, had a look at quite a few and although we same a few nice cars along the way, we saw a lot of really shocking nonsense. By far and away the nicest car I saw was a 1996 Fiat Bravo 1.8 HLX which would have fitted the bill quite nicely. But it was pretty much factory fresh, 22,000 miles from new unmarked interior and totally original. I walked away from it because doing the school run in that everyday, it would end up wrecked thanks to other morons – the main reason I parted with my 205. Plus, I needed a daily driver that would take a four year old boy with all his mess and a 33 year old wife with all her mess. This was far too nice, and we didn’t have the funds to buy two cars.

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New MG ZR. Not broken. Then it was.

The search continued and my wife and I were doing the very modern thing of ignoring each other and having our heads stuck in our phones. We were both looking for cars and we were looking at a particular car at the same time. The wife and I agreed that we should look at it, so she made the arrangements as she had a day off. Now bearing in mind the last car she bought home and did the deal for was the Rover 25 (which turned out to be a pretty damn good car), it’s only fitting it should be the car pictured on the above right there somewhere.

So, Domestic Management did the deal and later that day we were literally some pounds lighter and driving home in a turbo diesel MG ZR. Yes, I know, me with a diesel! It pulls superbly, handles well and is great to drive. It’s not without fault, though. The sunroof leaks occasionally (standard feature), the goon that had it before me disconnected the rear speakers and CD changer and installed the current stereo like a complete minkey. About four weeks into ownership, it developed a knock from the left hand front, which a replacement drive shaft sorted. The driver’s side window doesn’t always align properly when returning to the top. Most of these are tiny niggles that can be lived with, but thankfully the money we knocked off the asking price of the car paid for the drive shaft.

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Fiat’s clutch slave cylinder end bit. Broken.

With all this attention the new addition to the family, the Punto felt left out which it decided to prove on the Thursday before Good Friday. A phone call from the wife at 7am with the words “The Punto has broken down. I heard a bang and the clutch pedal stayed down” sounded expensive. Intitial thoughts were clutch, probably gearbox but whatever it was, it was going to be expensive. The RAC collected it and dumped it with the mechanic who looks after it and MoTs it, when he then informed me it probably wouldn’t be ready until after Easter. Oh fuck it. But then, a phone call three hours later informing me it was the slave cylinder and that he managed to obtain one and fit it was excellent news. Later that week, I decided to paint the rusty sump and give it a damn good clean. It’s been good as gold since, but need to put a new set of tyres on it before very long.

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The MG and the Punto. Not broken. For the moment.

Both are behaving themselves at the moment. I’ll leave it at that…

April 30, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Far from being alone in the universe

d0058360Alone In The Universe

I meant to write about this back when the album came out, but being lazy and neglecting my blog to a certain degree, I never got around to it. However, I’ve got my backside in gear thanks in no small part to going to a certain gig a couple of weeks back.

But first, the album. I don’t really look forward to new releases except for a few artists. Jeff Lynne is one of them – I pre-ordered the deluxe version and it arrived the day of release. So, armed with a set of headphones I gave it a spin. Now under the moniker Jeff Lynne’s ELO, Jeff plays all the instruments himself, aside from some background vocals by his daughter Laura, and a few bits of percussion by his sound engineer. As before, he writes it all and produces it all. I’d already heard When I Was A Boy, the autobiographical single, and as well as opening the album brilliantly, fits alongside the old classics with consummate ease.

Love and Rain has some very pleasing guitar sounds and I defy anyone not to sing along with Dirty To The Bone after the first listen. When The Night Comes sees Jeff put a slight reggae slant on proceedings, and pretty successfully too. The Sun Will Shine On You is one of the best ballads Lynne has penned and is the stand out song on the LP for me.

Ain’t It A Drag takes inspiration from Mersey Beat and is a great up-tempo number, brought back down to Earth by another slow tune All My Life. I’m Leaving You is more than a cursory nod to Roy Orbison, but if I’m honest is probably the weaker song on the album.

Another stand out track on the album is One Step At A Time. For all the nay-sayers that say this isn’t ELO, listen to this song, it has all the ingredients you could want and sounds like it would fit in on Discovery after Last Train To London very well indeed. Title track ends the proceedings, if you haven’t got the deluxe version, and again sees Lynne penning one of his best ballads so far.

So, to sum up, Alone In The Universe doesn’t break any new ground but it doesn’t have to. For those that see ELO as nothing but a guilty pleasure (a phrase I hate), this album proves that Lynne is a master of his craft and certainly still has a knack for knocking out irresistible melodies and choruses. My only criticism of the album only applies to the deluxe version. The title track finishes off the album perfectly, then Fault Line kicks in, a song I don’t particularly care for. The other bonus track Blue is brilliant and should have been on the regular release, but slightly further back in the running order. But hey, this is nit-picking, it’s a fantastic album.

It’s a four and a half out of five for me.

Jeff Lynne’s ELO – Genting Arena 16/4/2016

The tail end of last year saw me purchase tickets to go and see Jeff Lynne’s ELO in his home town of Birmingham. The fact he was planning to do a tour was an event enough, especially as much as Jeff disliked touring. The radio 2 Hyde Park gig went down so well, it prompted this tour and the album. Time seemed to drag waiting for it, checking the post every day to see if the tickets had arrived. The excitement building up like I was a school boy again.

Fast forward to the night of the 16th April. Genting Arena at the NEC, we arrive and carry out the act of purchasing the obligatory tour programme, t-shirt, mugs and keyrings. We were sat quite far back, but as it happened had a perfect view.

The support band came on, and it was a band I had liked for a number of years. The Feeling, evident in their own song writing that they are fans of ELO (and 10cc, Wings and Supertramp) kicked off the night in great fashion performing some of their well known hits – Fill My Little World, Love It When You Call, Sewn, Never Be Lonely and an outstanding number from their new album. Best support act I’ve seen and I urge anyone who doesn’t own their material to buy some, and I would definitely recommend seeing them live.

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A small wait, then it was time for the main show. A musical introduction morphed into an album track, Tightrope, a firm fan favourite, then went into hit single after hit single. Evil Woman, All Over The World, Living Thing, all brilliant songs and brilliantly played. When I Was a Boy, as I mentioned earlier, fits in wonderfully with the old classics and seeing it performed with them here just proves that further. Not only did it not sound out of place, but the whole audience sat and listened to it and it got one of the biggest applauses of the night. It was also the start of a nearly 34 year old man shedding a tear or two.

The audience and atmosphere were brilliant, the crowd singing along with Wild West Hero was spine-tingling as were the vocals from Jeff and the band. More tear shedding occurred during Can’t Get It Out of My Head but my personal highlights of the evening were 10538 Overture followed straight away by Secret Messages. These are two of my all time favourite ELO tunes, and the arrangement for Secret Messages live was fantastic.

More hits such as Turn To Stone, Don’t Bring Me Down, Sweet Talkin’ Woman were played with precision and the rendition of album track Steppin’ Out was superb. Everything right up to Mr Blue Sky where realisation crept in that this was near the end of the set, but this was played in its entirety and did it sound good. Off stage for a few moments before coming back on to do a rocking rendition of Roll Over Beethoven for the encore. Then that was it, all over and far too soon. A little under two hours went very quickly indeed, too quickly.

The sound was excellent, the playing from Jeff and the band was superb, the vocals were on top form as were the strings and keyboards. The icing on the cake was the light and stage display – you had to be there. My wife and I were, we were two of the 170,000 people that have seen ELO on this current tour. If they do it again, we’re going. One of the best concerts I’ve been to, and a real master class in how to do it properly.

April 28, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

   

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